Vegans have a right to say the world will never be vegan

I have no greater wish than for every single person in the world to be vegan and for animal exploitation of any kind to end. But it will never come true. Veganism will never be the norm.

Albín Brunovský, Pávi Král' (1980)

Albín Brunovský, Pávi Král' (1980)

Sometimes I feel that as a vegan I’m not allowed to voice my pessimism about our cause. I feel pressure to second all those vegans who proclaim that „the future is vegan“ and encourage others to be on „the right side of history.“ A fellow vegan once looked at me appalled when I said that I did not expect the future to be vegan. „Why would you say that?“ she cringed, as if to be a real vegan I had to also believe in the mainstream potential of our cause—or at least pretend to. But the thing is, I see no reason to be optimistic. And since I’ve never drawn my motivation for being vegan from optimism, I believe I can encourage others to oppose animal cruelty without suggesting to them that this position will eventually prevail, and they might as well get on the right side of history early.

For one, I simply prefer honesty. It is exhausting to be upbeat about the prospect of an entirely vegan world, when in reality I only believe that veganism will become slightly less rare but not standard and probably not even very common.

Secondly, morality is never about outcomes. I don’t live in accordance with my own morality in order to eventually be gratified by history or rewarded for being the vanguard. I live morally because I have to in order to maintain personal integrity. While I love inspiring or convincing others to go vegan, my own veganism doesn’t feed on the distant hope of one day being one of the many rather than one of the few. Moral decisions can never be in vain, because they concern the present, never the future.

So, no, veganism will never be the norm. But yes, I’m still vegan. My optimism about our cause and my decision to be vegan are unrelated. And just like I have a right to say that I don’t believe the future is vegan, vegans who actually believe it is, should go ahead and say it, too. Our levels of optimism may differ, but our battle cry is one: Speciesism is the greatest moral catastrophe of our time. I fight to win even though we'll lose. But, please, make me eat my words.